Designers with a feel for decadence

The peplum micro-mini and cyclonic hair just seen on the catwalks of Paris and Milan made appearances Sunday night at the Echo nightclub, during "Broken Dolls: A Fashion Tale." Or rather, their brazen first cousins did, as five young Eastside designers alternately crushed and caressed fashion's pedestal, during a one-hour commedia dell'arte debut of their collections.

The show started as stilt walker Amelita, in naughty nurse attire and cooing in Italian, made her way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, and continued with a puppet show by the Cinnamon Roll Gang with two giant maws alternately savaging the styles of and coming on to a series of life-size rag dolls paraded around the stage by Death. Billing himself as "your switch-hit host for the evening," ringmaster Clint Catalyst, in a cartoon-huge top hat and tails, introduced the evening's first line, Cotton Candy by Adele Pederson and featuring the artist Elizabeth McGrath.

As calliope music played, the models -- ashen and prettily bruised as children back from the dead -- traversed the runway in horizontal-striped, over-the-knee socks, full-slips painted with McGrath's signature Edward Gorey-esque creatures, and fuzzy boas with feral fox heads. They were as likely to accessorize with a sequined Valentine's Day pillow as with a stuffed nutria.

The Vera Icon line featured models in lacy tap pants and 6-inch bondage pumps, and the return of the ruffle, on a sleeve and the edge of a hat. It Ain't Pretty, by Alysa Pakkidis and Shanna Maurizi, sent out its first model in mukluks, a net skirt with visible girdle and garters, and an 18-inch multicolored Mohawk, and followed with a decidedly insect-centric theme: a June bug on a lime velour muscle shirt, a moth on the butt of a black leather skirt.

There was a lot of audience heavy breathing for La Ruca, which designer Tanya Mendoza translates as "a fine looking woman with a lot of orgullo" or pride. "It's all about camel toes, stilettos and hard-core cholita glamour," teased ringmaster Catalyst, as La Ruca models came out wearing small fedoras, cigarette skirts, black eyeliner and buckets of attitude.

She-bible captured the look of Jacqueline Susann -- adultery in the afternoon. There were great legs, false eyelashes, all snug in tiny tutus and slippery, skin-revealing tops. A Gregorian chant ushered in the gutter-punk formal wear of Defile, whose models wore Wicked Witch of the West noses, Japanese platform boots, baby-doll tops and snap-front minis that tore away, revealing boys briefs underneath.

And if you're interested in the clothes sans the show, there's a "Broken Dolls" trunk show on Sunday.

-- Nancy Rommelmann


'Broken Dolls'

Where: Show Pony, 1543 Echo Park Ave., Echo Park

When: Sunday noon to 6 p.m.

Cost: Free

Info: (213) 482-7676

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